Marty’s Letter to Cuomo Urges Reinstatement of BQE Study

Borough President Marty Markowitz has written a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo urging him to rescind the decision by the State Department of Transportation to terminate environmental studies for the rehabilitation of the Gowanus and Brooklyn Heights portions of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, which would have the effect of postponing any major reconstruction or replacement of these roadways indefinitely. According to Markowitz’s letter:

As a result of these project terminations, all plans for improved capacity or highway replacements have been effectively shelved for decades. This means that the current egregiously negative environmental impacts that these antiquated and crumbling highways have on the thousands of Brooklynites who live near them—or on the millions of roadway users who must travel on them while facing near-constant congestion—will not be substantively addressed for a generation or more. This is absolutely unacceptable and an insult to the residents of Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens, and New Jersey who live or work near these structures or depend on them to access the region’s commercial core.

Additionally, the termination of these two projects constitutes a colossal waste of time and money. The Gowanus EIS began in 1997 and the EIS for the Cantilever section of the BQE began in 2008. Since then, literally thousands of hours of time by public participants and city and state employees has been invested in stakeholder meetings and in the scoping and planning process. Additionally, millions of dollars have been spent on contracts, data collection, engineers, outreach, and everything else that accompanies environmental review. Terminating these projects tosses nearly all that public money and time away.

Markowitz notes that, in addition to the economic importance of the highway as a route for travel, commutation and commerce, the existing highway structures have negative effects on both public health, because of the fumes generated by stalled traffic, and the value of nearby real estate. He writes that it ought to “be a state and national priority to overhaul and replace these antiquated structures.” He concludes:

I urge your administration to reverse the decision to terminate these projects. You have recently proposed funding infrastructure through the expansion of public-private partnerships including the use of pension fund investments to pay for our roadways and bridges. Although the details of your proposal need to be finalized, I believe it is a great start and should be used to immediately address Brooklyn’s I-278. Additionally, I request that your administration open a new dialogue with other elected officials at the City, State, and Federal levels to find opportunities to revive and continue these projects to the fulfillment of their expressed goals of solving the current traffic, economic, and environmental nightmare they create.

I look forward to receiving a positive response on this matter.

Update: State Senator Daniel Squadron has also asked the Governor to reinstate the BQE study, using funds from the infrastructure bill that just passed the Senate:

I’m asking Governor Cuomo to invest some of that money right here in the district — by moving forward with the rehabilitation of the BQE, funding an incentive program for Lower Manhattan businesses to become more energy efficient, and helping City Tech build a new academic center that will be a resource at the gateway to Brooklyn, while providing even greater opportunities for striving New Yorkers.

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  • Curts LeMay

    While I agree with termination of environmental studies, simply because they are now redundant and merely point out the bloody obvious, that the BQE in the Heights remains uncovered with no tunnel is pathetic.

    Force Mario to sit down on a bench at the Promenade on any work day at rush hour, and then we’ll get action.

  • Buddy Holly

    Frankly, the BQE is terminal. It is past it’s expected lifetime of 50 to 60 years, and construction on the replacement structure will take another 10 years or so. If the BDE isn’t fixed soon, it will collapse. Just to stay substandard, this section of the BQE will need constant construction repair. Somethings, like your sick arteries, can’t be ignored.

  • T.K. Small

    Here is a non-controversial idea. Why don’t we put more housing in park to pay for an eight lane superhighway.

  • Eddyenergizer

    I like the tunnel idea, it would have the least construction impact on the heights. Consider what problems simply renovating the existing structures will create, rerouting of traffic, noise and turmoil… The tunnel would be dug far below our streets and would mostly go unnoticed.

  • Buddy Holly

    T.K. Stephen and Vanessa would have a fit. They’d choke on their cognac.

  • Eddyenergizer

    Mitten, the 2nd Ave subway tunnel is a completely different story, it is being built close to the surface and has frequent openings to the streets, at the location of stations. Also, there is no convenient place to stage the work from, it must be done from the streets. The BQE tunnel would be much deeper underground, require no intermediate surface penetrations and could be staged from the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

  • Claire

    Mitten– asthma rates in neighborhoods like Sunset Park are quite high, which the BQE exacerbates.

  • Luciano

    I just wanted to have a reality check here:

    A tunnel under the BQE/Promanade would cost Billions of taxpayer dollars at a time both the State and federal Government are deeply in debt.

    How would you pay for a Billion dollar tunnel ?

  • Roy from Cobble Hill

    Thank you Marty! Brooklyn needs a 21st century transportation solution sometime before the 22nd century.

  • Eddyenergizer

    Roy, you’re too kind. It’s more like a 20th century transportation solution we need before the 22nd century.
    As for Marty, It’s good he’s doing something, but just sending a letter seems a bit lackluster. It would be nice if he rallied some support, went to albany in person and made a real attempt at getting the project back in the works.

  • stuart

    There is no tunnel solution for the benighted BQE. Our only hope is that air quality laws force cars and especially trucks to run more cleanly and that advances in car and truck design will result in lighter, less noisy, and cleaner vehicles. Improved vehicle design and operation seem to be where the innovations are. No way to make the clunky old roads better, or to hope that more goods will be transported by rail. Forget it. This country depends on trucks and will continue to do so even after we figure out a way to make them levitate and float over the blacktop. .
    The only way the old cantilever will be rebuilt is if it actually collapses due to an earthquake or terrible accident. Neither of those scenarios seem desirable.